EXCLUSIVE: National Geographic Channel’s upcoming series The Right Stuff will become a Disney+ original. The period drama, starring Patrick J. Adams and Jake McDorman, will premiere in the fall under the Nat Geo brand on the SVOD platform. Adapted from Tom Wolfe’bestselling nonfiction account of the early days of the U.S. space program, The Right Stuff is produced by Leonardo DiCaprio’s Appian Way and Warner Horizon Scripted Television.
The first Nat Geo Disney+ show, docu series The World According to Jeff Goldblum, also had been greenlighted for the linear cable network before migrating to Disney+ to become one of the platform’s original offerings at launch. The Right Stuff marks Nat Geo’s first scripted original series for Disney+. It will provide the platform with a high-end original drama series in the fall when streamers will feel the effects of the current coronavirus-related production shutdown with a dwindling volume of new originals.
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The eight-episode The Right Stuff examines what would become America’s first “reality show,” as ambitious astronauts and their families become instant celebrities in a competition that could kill them or make them immortal. The two men at the center of the story are Major John Glenn (Adams), a revered test pilot and committed family man with unwavering principles,, and Lieutenant Commander Alan Shepard (McDorman), one of the best test pilots in Navy history.
At the height of the Cold War in 1959, the Soviet Union dominates the space race. To combat a national sentiment of fear and decline, the U.S. government conceives of NASA’s Project Mercury, igniting a space race with the Soviets and making instant celebrities of a handful of the military’s most accomplished test pilots. These individuals, who come to be known as the Mercury Seven, are forged into heroes long before they have achieved a single heroic act. The nation’s best engineers estimate they need several decades to make it into outer space. They are given two years. (Watch below a behind-the-scenes video featuring footage from the series.)
The rest of the Mercury Seven includes Lieutenant Gordon Cooper (Colin O’Donoghue), the youngest of the seven who was selected to everyone’s surprise; Wally Schirra (Aaron Staton), a competitive pilot with a gift for pulling pranks; Scott Carpenter (James Lafferty), a soulful man who was dubbed “The Poet” by the other astronauts; Deke Slayton (Micah Stock), a taciturn but incredibly intelligent pilot and engineer; and Gus Grissom, (Michael Trotter), a no-nonsense test pilot who eventually becomes the second man in space.
“This true story of scientific innovation and human perseverance could not be more timely,” said Courteney Monroe, president, National Geographic Global Television Networks. “National Geographic’s The Right Stuff is an aspirational story about exploration, ambition, determination and resilience and reminds us that human beings can achieve the extraordinary when united by a common purpose. This series provides a compelling behind-the-scenes look at the flawed, but heroic Mercury 7 astronauts and we are thrilled that it has found its perfect home on Disney+.”
The rest of The Right Stuff‘s ensemble cast includes Nora Zehetner as Annie Glenn, the wife of John Glenn and his childhood sweetheart who has a speech impairment that can sometimes make communication difficult; Eloise Mumford as Trudy Cooper, Gordon Cooper’s wife and an accomplished pilot herself, with her rocky marriage to Gordon providing conflict throughout the season; and Shannon Lucio as Louise Shepard, Alan Shepard’s devoted and long-suffering wife.
Patrick Fischler plays Bob Gilruth, a soft-spoken rocket scientist who is the partner of the more brash Chris Kraft, who is portrayed by Eric Ladin. They are critical members of NASA’s Space Task group. Danny Strong plays John “Shorty” Powers, NASA’s omnipresent PR man, constantly taking the astronauts on glad-handing trips; Josh Cooke plays Loudon Wainwright Jr., LIFE Magazine’s star reporter, who is tasked with writing the biographies of all seven astronauts and has the keenest look at what’s really transpiring.
“As our audiences around the world turn to Disney+ to find inspiration and optimism, we believe the true-life heroism of the Mercury 7 will showcase the tenacity of the human spirit and inspire a new generation to reach for the stars,” said Ricky Strauss, president, Content & Marketing, Disney+. “The wonderful team of storytellers at National Geographic, Warner Horizon Scripted Television and Appian Way have crafted a compelling and entertaining tale and we are honored to give it a global home as the first scripted Disney+ original series from National Geographic.”
DiCaprio and Jennifer Davisson are executive producers, along with showrunner Mark Lafferty. Chris Long directed and executive produced the first episode. Will Staples and Howard Korder are also executive producers. Thelma Schoonmaker and Danny Strong are consulting producers. Michael Hampton shepherded this project on behalf of Appian Way and is co-producer.
“Tom Wolfe’s book brilliantly captured a critical moment in American history that really resonated with all of us at Appian Way and Nat Geo,” said Davisson. “Disney+ is the perfect partner to bring forth this story of what it takes to truly achieve something extraordinary, but also the personal costs of that ambition.”
Added Lafferty, “The Right Stuff evokes the wonder and awe of the moment we first escaped the bounds of our only home and ventured into the unknown. But the show is as much about who we are today as it is about our historic achievements. At a time when the world is confronted with significant challenges, this story reminds us that what seems impossible today can become the triumph of tomorrow.”
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